13 Floiver and Weed.
The weary head drooped upon Lady Lucille's shoulder as
the girl spoke ; the tangled dusty hair and gaudy cotton
kerchief rested unrepulsed on the young ladj''s green habit.
Never before had Lord Tnglesliaw's daughter come into such
close contact with squalid nameless poverty.
' We must get you on to the pony somehow,' she said.
' Rest your head against this tree while I bring him to you.'
She left the girl leaning, limp and inert, against the red-
brown fir-trunk, and went over to Puck, who was contentedly
nibbling the soft flowery turf at his feet. Lucille led him to
the spot where Bess reclined, and then lifted the languid
form from the ground, Bess giving what help she could, but
that of the feeblest. She was evidently in a half-fainting
condition, and would have to be held on the pony.
The aged and slumberous Puck lent himself very placidly
to the operation, though wondering at it. Lucille managed
to lift the helpless girl on to the saddle, and to supj^ort her
in a sitting position, drooping listlessly forward over Puck's
mane, as she led the pony through the plantation, and by
the nearest way to the Castle, crossing the broad stretch of
velvet turf in the bright i\lay sunshine.
All that glory of sunlight and greensward, old forest trees
and fallow deer, the distant gleam of the lake in the hollow,
the grandeur of the old Castle standing grim and gray
against a wooded background, was lost on Bess, whose head
was never raised from its drooping posture, and for whom
this terrestrial globe was just now a dim dream hovering on
the verge of darkness. It needed but the faintest swing of
Life's pendulum to make all dark.
Lucille went into the stable-yard with her strange com¬
panion. It was dinner-time, and the men were away, all
things in the j'ard still and slumberous as in the castle of
the Sleeping Beauty; but at the sound of the pony's hoofs
an old man came out of the stables, and advanced to meet
his master's daughter.
This was Tom Pike, the old groom who had special
charge of Puck. He had taught Lady Lucille to ride, before
she was advanced enough for her father to take her in hand,
and he worshix)]3ed her. So when she told him to take the
tatterdemalion in his arms and carry her iuto the Castle, he
had no power to gainsay her, albeit he felt the proceeding
was altogether out of keeping.
One feeble protest, and one alone he made.
' Hadn't I better take her into the saddle-room. Lady
Lucille ? I can get her a bit of meat and drink there,'